The Naming of Things
Rev. Joy Mounts, Associate Minister
It is often said that April, that month between winter losing its grip and spring trying to get started, is the cruelest month. May is the one that brings flowers. And is said to be merry! I hope after all of the cold we have had that it turns out to be so.
But it got me thinking about why we have this tendency to label things. Is it to feel that we have some sort of ownership? Or to try to understand things better? To diminish things; make them more reachable; or just make them more fun?
I was thinking about this after the Confirmation Class’ trip to Temple Emanu-El. After worship, we talked with Rabbi Sagal about many different elements of the service. One of the Confirmand’s questions was about the names for God. Rabbi Sagal explained that in Judaism the name for God is so sacred that they do not say or write it. They say Yahweh, Adonai, or Lord. Some write it as G_d. In the New Testament, Jesus called God “Abba”, which basically means “Dad”, and made everyone mad. They thought He was being disrespectful when He was simply portraying the way He viewed God and the relationship He had and we all could have with God.
How do we name God? What do we call God when we pray? When we weep? When we laugh? The naming of things is important. And it can tell us much about how we view people, places, relationships and all that is important to us. Do we have special names? Nicknames? Are there names we cannot speak aloud? In many cultures, knowing someone’s true name was a sign that you could have power over them.
The one thing we can know for sure is that God’s name for us is “beloved”. That is unchanging. And that is a warming thought to take with us as we head, hopefully, into spring!